Dev Blog #12: How Things Happen (Brythain)

Why Avitus? That’s the question I needed to answer four months ago.

I’m a relatively young writer; my very first foray into writing fiction since my schooldays was in February 2014, shortly after trying out Katawa Shoujo[, a visual novel which most of you know is about a guy with arrhythmia and his efforts to survive and find love in a place called Yamaku. After completing every single route and then bulldozing my way through the millions of words in the official forum dedicated to that VN, I decided to put my deep and messy feelings to good use. I had a project in mind, and it was called ‘After The Dream’—it’s now a monster fanfic of its own.

Something else happened, though. There were other people with similar interests. Several groups wanted to use their own deep and messy feelings to fuel their own projects. I was interested in these. I explored quite a few. But in the end, I realized I could only commit to one—and that was Avitus, by Watercress Studios. The fact that I hate watercress as a food was no obstacle.

Why Avitus? I think it was because for some reason, it dovetailed well with the directions I was taking my own writing. I’d rediscovered the joys of intricate backstory and plot, the joys of finding out more about characters I really cared about. The clincher, oddly enough, was Luke’s insistence that I write something to prove that I could write well enough.

It was that which got me to write a bittersweet little scene in which our character Hanna shows that she has grounds to both hate and love her grandfather, and what those grounds are. For some reason, on one of my early morning runs, I found myself face to face, in my mind, with Conrad van der Merwen, a grim and grizzled old mining tycoon with a ruthless streak. I could see the confrontation between grandfather and granddaughter, and the lines they would speak echoed in my head.

Which leads me to my guilty (not-so)-secret. Part of my real-life career has to do with deep profiling and character analysis. I watch and listen to people for a living. I wonder about their personal lives and how complete strangers might interact if they ever met each other. It’s bred in me a kind of weird insight as to how unlikely relationships and behaviours develop.

Avitus is a hotbed of such unlikely relationships. These are people who might have uncomfortable and/or damaged connections to the world they have left behind, or are trying to forget, or have been exiled from. Many of them shouldn’t be making friends, and some of them have secrets that would blow their friendships wide open if the other character(s) knew.

Part of my task as an assistant writer is to develop those peculiar relationships, to invent stories, threads, and dreams that tie these unlikely characters together. Hanna’s story, along with those of her supporting cast, is based partly on real-life people I have watched for months or years. By picking random observations I’ve made from real life, I’ve been able to assemble characters who are larger than life in some ways. I’ve had the satisfaction of helping my lead writer, /u/TheDwarfLard, by suggesting spicy little bits to add to the tapestry he’s weaving.

In Hanna’s route, you’ll find a plethora of unusual students: Stanley the Singaporean nerd, Talia the mysterious Israeli, Gaspar the disaster-fascinated Brazilian, Reem the Lebanese pastry chef, and Hector the movie-making romantic from Utah. Each one has quirks and a fully-realised history and background—although not everything will be revealed explicitly in normal gameplay.

When people finally get to play Hanna’s route and all its possible endings (some of which I’m sure none of us expect, even), it’s my hope that they’ll have two kinds of response. First, I hope some of them will say, “Goodness, that character is so true to life!” Second, I hope others will say, “Come on, nobody’s like that in real life… but it’s so oddly convincing!” Both of these may be true.

My humble piece of advice—a small suggestion really—to others who want to turn their hands to writing characters, is to begin by picking someone you see in a public space. Watch how they interact with people around them. Remember that they’re not just bundles of traits (although those of you trained to use tools like MMPI, MBTI, and their ilk might see them that way), but real humans. They might be inconsistent at first, but there’s always a reason of some sort for that. You could fill whole notebooks with speculations and hypotheses and findings about these random people. I have: parts of them live on in the characters I write about in fanfics—and now, in Avitus.

As I look back at what’s already been done—the drafting of flowcharts, the construction of routes and points of interaction, the development of characters—I can’t help but looking ahead in excitement as well. It’s my desire that what my colleagues have made will be great entertainment for anyone who enters the world of Avitus. Let’s hope that day will come soon!